Book Review – Girlchild by Tuppelo Hassman
November 8, 2015
Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Disposal of Outgrown Uniforms; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, Calle de los Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.
Rory’s been told she is “third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the County and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social worker’s reports, half-recalled memories, story problems, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world while she searches for the way out of it. Girlchild is a heart-stopping and original debut.
I picked this book up from the library after I read a post on River City Reading (which is one of my favorite blogs to follow) about authors Shannon was waiting to hear again from. The way she described the book sounded like it was right up my alley. Unfortunately, it did not pan out to be all that I had hoped. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I do enjoy books that incorporate multiple formats in forwarding the plot. Unfortunately, I did not feel that Hassman used the shifting formats to her advantage. Some chapters really fell flat, and I was left wondering why she added them.
The reader does ache for the character of Rory to have life turn around for her. Hassman creates a life for Rory that is truly as bleak as it could possibly get (and somehow manages to continually get worse as the story progresses). The people and activities that seem to bring Rory some peace and joy fade away. This book is not a pick-me-up if that is what you are seeking.
As negative as all of this sounds, I didn’t think Girlchild was a terrible book, it just fell a little short of the mark for me. The reader will find herself rooting for Rory and her family, quickly turning pages in the hope that life will stabilize for all of them. It is a quick read that can evoke some strong emotions.
Have any of you read Girlchild? What were your impressions? Have you ever been so excited to start a book that you think you will love only to have it fall flat for you?